SEPTIC SYSTEM QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS IN MASSACHUSETTS
- What is a septic tank? It is a watertight container, frequently made of concrete that is buried somewhere in your yard and accepts all the wastewater from your house. The tank has no moving parts and is the first part of your On Site Wastewater Disposal System. There is an inlet and outlet baffle or tee on the pipes inside the tank, they work to keep the scum and sludge inside the tank.
- How does a septic tank work? The septic tank is the place where the first stage of wastewater treatment occurs. The conditions in the tanks are ideal for bacteria growth. The bacteria utilize the organic waste as food. After the bacteria digests the food, it settles to the bottom of the tank and is identified as “sludge”. Very little of the soaps, fats and grease are eaten by the bacteria and because they are lighter than water, they continue to float on top of the water. This build up is known as “scum”. The area between the sludge and scum is known as the “clear zone.” This is the zone of treated wastewater that moves out of the septic tank to the next component of the disposal system.
- How can I avoid problems with my septic system? We would recommend an effluent filter be installed in the outlet tee of the septic tank. The effluent filter sits inside the outlet tee and acts as a colander only allowing the wastewater through, keeping the scum & sludge in the tank. Typically the filter requires cleaning on a yearly basis.
- How often should I have my septic tank pumped out? By Whom? Your septic tank should be pumped when the scum and sludge layers equal 1/3 the total capacity of your septic tank. Every home is different and what may work for your household may not work for your neighbor. You should rely on your septic company to measure the layers for you on a semi-annual basis. When choosing a septic company, you need to consider the following: Price, Knowledge, Reputation, and Availability When the septic company is scheduled to arrive at your property, you should try to make yourself available to meet them and become as knowledgeable about your septic system as possible. Ask questions, take notes and keep a maintenance record book of the following: Where is the tank located: Either you or the septic company should draw a sketch showing location with ties to your septic tank. How deep is the tank under the ground: For easier access try to keep the cover within 12″ of ground surface. Volume of tank in gallons: The septic tank gallonage is varied widely depending on width, depth, and diameter of the tank. Typically, when a tank is pumped you are paying based on volume. Condition of tank: As the pumper how the tank looks, is it structurally ok. Are the baffles or tees in place and what is the overall condition? Are there problems that need prompt attention? Is there any runback into the tank: Runback from the outlet side of the septic tank could indicate a problem with the leaching portion of the system. You may want to have the leaching portion investigated.
- If I'm not having a problem with my septic system, do I still have to have it pumped out? Yes, Yes, Yes. One of the most important things is providing your septic system with the proper maintenance, just think – you would never drive your car 50,000 miles without changing the oil. When your tank is pumped out, the scum and sludge layers are removed and the leaching portion of your system is able to take a brief break from receiving any liquid.
- What should I put into my septic system and what should I not? The only thing that you should flush is water, toilet paper (septic system safe) and human waste. You should repair all leaking faucets or toilets and divert roof drains, house footing drains or sump pumps away from your septic system components. Bleach for the laundry is okay to use as long as it is not used in every load. You should never clean paintbrushes or dump paint down the drain. Most household cleaners are okay to use, check your particular cleaner label for “septic system safe”. You should never flush the following: Coffee grinds, dental floss, disposable diapers, kitty litter, sanitary napkins or tampons, cigarette butts, condoms, fat, grease/oil, or paper towels.
- What do I do if my toilet starts gurgling? If your toilet gurgles while in the flushing or refilling stage, you should check other items in the house. If you kitchen sink and bathroom sink work fine, it could be sign of a problem with the toilet plumbing. If your other items do the same gurgle then you need to call your septic system company. This could indicate a blockage in the building sewer pipe or a full septic tank.
- I smell a septic odor? Septic odors do not indicate that it is time to pump your tank. A septic odor inside the house could be contributed to one or several things. Make sure that all traps (drains) have water in them. When a sink, shower or toilet is not used for an extended period of time, the trap could dry up allowing the septic gases to enter the house back through the dried trap. If a sink, shower or toilet has not been used allow the water to run for several minutes. Also another cause for the septic odor to be in the house is the gasket/seal around the bottom of the toilet. Check to see if gasket/seal is broken (sniff around bottom of toilet), if broken call a plumber to have it replaced. If you get a septic odor outside it could be coming from the septic tank, the vent pipe on the roof or the vent pipe at the end of your leach field (if you have one). Septic gases can and will escape out of any small opening. To eliminate an odor from the septic tank cover, place a small amount of dirt over the cover or apply a clear silicone around the rim of the cover. If odor is in the air it could be coming from the vent pipe on the roof (over the bathroom). This pipe vents the septic gases from the house out through the roof. A charcoal filter can eliminate the odor coming from the vent pipe at the end of the leach field. Call us for more information on Charcoal Filters. We have them in stock.